banana almond muffin pudding

The heart wants what it wants, and so does the stomach. During winter I don’t give strawberries a second thought but I could eat them any day of the week when they are in season. But there are some foods that you can’t help but crave – regardless of the season and once your head starts asking for it, your stomach won’t stop needing it until it is satisfied. The other day, despite the humidity, I decided that I needed bread pudding.

SAM_3227

Maybe it was the little bout of rain we had last week that make we want to curl up on the couch with a nice, steaming bowl of pudding. I am not one to ever deprive my stomach of what it wants – it really is the force that drives, and controls me, so I made this little variation of a traditional bread pudding.

I am not a huge stickler for sticking too close to a traditional recipe; if you can change it to make it better – do it! While a bread pudding usually uses bread (as per the name), I have seen it made with brioche and croissants so I don’t think anyone is going to be too scandalised by the fact that I made mine with muffins.

SAM_3219

To begin, break or cut three large and slightly stale muffins into eight chunks each. You could use three croissants or pain-au-chocolat instead of muffins, or six slices of white bread. The muffins I used were banana and almond flavoured which I knew would give the pudding a lovely moreish flavour and it also meant that I wasn’t going to have to add much else to make it delicious – the work was already done for me!

Place the muffin pieces into a baking dish and set aside. In a recipe using just bread, pouring a little melted butter over top of the bread chucks is recommended, but these muffins were practically bleeding butter so I decided to skip this step for time’s sake.

For each muffin that you use (or for each two slices of bread) whisk one egg, a ¼ cup of sugar and a ½ cup of milk with a teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon. This is essentially going to form he custard that the bread absorbs.

SAM_3221

“Custard-soaked bread” is not a description that does this dish any justice, so we need to make it a little more exciting. Sprinkle about a ½ cup of dried fruit or chocolate drops over the bread and pour over the custard mixture. You could use raisins, pistachio nuts or even cubes of apple. As I mentioned, my muffins already had banana in them and were topped with almond slithers, but I topped mine with fresh slices of banana and a few dried cranberries for a little colour.

SAM_3223

Bake your assembled pudding at 175°C for 45minutes until crisp and golden on top.

A nice crunch on top, and an oozy warmth in the centre; folds of bread filled with bursts of custard – just what the doctor ordered! And by doctor, I mean my stomach. Enjoy piping hot while staring out the window as the rain runs down the window, like tears at the realisation that summer will eventually finish, or refrigerate overnight to enjoy as a cooling treat in the midday heat. Or eat the leftovers for breakfast. I did, and trust me, your arteries might not thank you, but your taste buds surely will!

SAM_3226

Advertisements

chai-infused poached pears

I hate pears. They are the only fruit that I don’t like, there is something about the inaudible lack of crunch as you sink your teeth into them that I find oh so unappealing. Subconsciously I associate them with pigs; as a child my cousins and I use to feed their pigs pears, catching them as they fell of a nearby tree when they were in abundance and throwing them into the pen. However, my distain of pears ends as soon as they are poached, when I think they are wonderful.

SAM_3135

Today’s recipe is the ultimate dessert in any weather, and anything drizzled in chocolate is fine with me. Poire belle Hélène are simple to prepare but will wow any guest with their elegance. Note: the elegance is only included if you are moderate with the chocolate drizzle, I am not.

Traditionally in poire belle Hélène, the pears are poached in a simple sugar syrup, but I decided to get a little funky with it and poach mine in a chai infused syrup. Masala chai originates from India, it is black tea infused with a range of spices; these vary from place to place, but can include any of the following: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cumin and turmeric. I used ginger, cinnamon, fennel and coriander seeds, nutmeg, turmeric and cayenne pepper.

SAM_3123

Combine any number of the aforementioned spices in a relatively deep saucepan, the amount all depends on how many spices you are using, and how many pears you are poaching. I used about half a teaspoon of each which was the perfect amount for three pears. Over a medium heat, lightly toast the spices; only about one minute or they will start to burn. Add 1/8 cup of sugar and ½ a cup of cold water for every three pears. If you don’t have the spices, or the time to collect them all, but still want the wispy chai flavours, you can add a chai teabag to water and sugar while the pears poach.

SAM_3122

Pears are generally an early autumn fruit, so the middle of summer is the perfect time for this recipe; if you can get your hands on some slightly under-ripe fruit, you can peel them without the juice running everywhere. Unfortunately I have no advise for peeling ripe fruit without creating a mess, sorry. Leave the stalks attached for presentation, and more importantly, easy handling.

Once the sugar has dissolved, sit the pears in the warming liquid, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check them sporadically; once a breadknife can slide into the pale flesh of the pear with little resistance, they are done.

Fish each pear out of the syrup by the stalk and set aside to cool. In my opinion, they are better served cold, but if you are in colder weather, or just can’t wait, then they will be delicious hot too!

SAM_3127

Pears and chocolate make a great pair, pears and coffee are an even better match. To make the sauce, reheat the sugar syrup (strain it first to get rid of the spices), while the spices were infusing with the pears, the pears were infusing with the syrup, so the sauce will not only be speckled with pinches of spice, but will also have a lovely undertone of pear – so you could even save it and use it with something else. Once the syrup has heated, add ¼ of a cup of finely chopped or grated chocolate and stir constantly until melted. If you are a coffee nut like me, you can add a shot of espresso as well, or replace the chocolate with espresso sauce.

SAM_3136

Drizzle (or pour) the sauce over top of the pears, for an extra touch of elegance, dust with icing sugar, toasted almond flakes or ground almonds.

the new pavlova?

Like I said a couple of posts ago, I have recently been playing around with the concept of macarons. Not deconstructing the famed French macaron per say, I am not at all a fan of deconstructed food to say the least! But just adding little subtle touches to a dish which are reminiscent of them. And that is how I came up with my idea of this meringue cake. Since making it, several people have mentioned that they have seen or read articles talking about similar things. In which I was devastated to hear as I feel like my dreams of becoming the next disputed creator; like the inventor credited with creating the Pavlova in homage to ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

AP_Cygne

But I digress…

Before I tried this out I was not entirely sure it was going to work. So much so that I waited until there was no one else in the house so I could throw away the ruins if it failed without anyone finding out. But I also told myself it was good to document it, and share it with the world/blogisphere in either case. Because failing is not a bad thing.

Again, digressing.

Start off my making a standard cake batter, I used a half recipe as I didn’t want to go wasting a whole bunch of precious butter and sugar on something that didn’t work. I also thought that it made sense to half the recipe as the cake was one of two components.

SAM_2873

Cream 50grams of butter with 100grams of sugar. Add two egg yolks. I did this in place of using one whole egg, as I was going to need egg whites for the meringue and hate having leftover egg yolks unless I am planning on making carbonara for dinner. Mix in 100grams of flour, a tablespoon of cocoa and 50grams of ground almonds. The almonds add that texture and flavour that is so reminiscent of a chewy macaron.

Add 50mls of milk or cream and mix until combined.

SAM_2880

In a separate bowl, whisk 2 egg whites with 85grams of sugar, a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla. Add the sugar spoonful at a time, just coz.

SAM_2884

One of the main reasons I was sure this was going to fail is due to the whole concept of a meringue. You want it to be light and airy and fluffy, and to achieve this you want to mix it as little as possible. But how do you combine a meringue mixture with cake batter without mixing it? I will tell you…

Firstly, pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin, add the meringue on top and gently fold them together until barely combined. Top with fresh cherries if possible, although I used canned boysenberries and that worked well too. Bake at 160°C for 35minutes.

SAM_2885

If possible, leave the tin in the oven after you have turned it off so the meringue doesn’t crack, but if you can’t wait to eat it, then that is a-ok with me!

SAM_2892

Crisp and crunchy on the top, soft and comforting in the middle, with candied fruit rippling through. This experiment is definitely a winner!

So the moral of the story is: be bold, never be afraid to try new things in the kitchen because they could end up great. And even if they do fail, at least you will have the bowl to lick clean afterwards!

SAM_2887

fifty shades of yellow

I have posted a recipe like this before, but this version is a little bit more decadent. I am going through a bit of a phase inspired by macarons (stay tuned!), not only the crunchy chewiness of them but also the sweet and savoury dichotomy that the ground almonds adds. And as we come into summer I begin craving all things Italian; pasta, tomatoes covered in olive oil, and polenta.

Vernazza - Liguria, Italy
Vernazza – Liguria, Italy

Polenta is one of those ingredients which a lot of people aren’t too fussed over. Rightly so, often it is not prepared in the most interesting of ways; needing to be cooked in milk or served with a lot of cheese to gain any memorability. This method of cooking is very heavy – the opposite of what you want in summer. In this recipe that I have borrowed from Nigella Lawson, polenta (along with ground almonds) is used as a substitute for flour, which makes for a lighter, less stodgy batter. The polenta balances the sweetness of the almonds and the lemoncello adds a bit of tartness, which never goes amiss.

SAM_2778

Nigella’s recipe calls just for lemon drizzle over top, while I served mine with cinnamon whipped cream for presentation. I know what you’re thinking; whipped cream, lemoncello and sweet almond meal batter – how decadent is this going to be?! That’s a fair enough thought, the lemoncello can be substituted for lemon juice, the whipped cream can be omitted and this cake is meant to be 16 servings, so small slices is key. Everything in moderation!

SAM_2769

Beat 200grams of butter with 200grams of sugar. If you don’t have a pair of kitchen scales (I seem to have misplaced mine), 200grams is just less than 1cup. Mix 200grams of ground almonds and 100grams of polenta, 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder is optional here. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter. Mix, add an egg, mix and repeat. All up that equals three eggs, but one egg can be swapped for half a banana although eggs will make a fluffier batter. I used one egg and one banana. Mix through the zest of one lemon, transfer to a cake tin and bake at 180°C for 40 minutes.

a lot of beige
a lot of beige

While your cake is baking, gently heat 125grams of sugar with 4tablespoons of lemoncello (or lemon juice) and a dash of vanilla (which can also be omitted if I am being too decadent for your tastebuds). Bring to the boil and simmer until your cake is done. Softly poke the top of your cake with a fork or toothpick and pour over the syrup. The syrup will infuse through the cake, making it moist with a lovely lemon zing.

I topped mine with whipped cream and some dried orange and lemon zest. Other options include candied fruit of freshly picked spring flowers.

SAM_2784

brioche à la praline

Why, hello there, 2015! How are you? Exhausting, that’s how. We are a mere four days in and I already just want to curl up into a ball and sleep for a week. But seeing as that is not possible, I instead just daydream about all the delicious food I ate a Christmas-time.

SAM_2635

This year, Christmas breakfast was accompanied with homemade brioche laced with sugar-coated almonds. The morning was unusually humid so the dough didn’t rise as well as I would have liked it to, but it was still really delicious and rather easy to make.

Easy to make and not too time-consuming, however, should not be thought as two of the same, especially in this situation. Regardless of when you want your bread to be ready, you will need to start the day before; the dough is best when refrigerated overnight.

To make this delicious beauty, you will need…
240grams of flour
25grams of sugar
5grams of salt
7grams of instant yeast
70milliltres of milk
2 eggs
125grams of softened butter cubes

Mix your dry ingredients together before adding the milk and eggs. Use an electric mixer at a low speed for a couple of minutes before moving to a medium speed for another eight or so. Or use your own arm strength like me until you have an elastic dough like this.

SAM_2629

Mix in the butter a cube at a time; I find that this way the batter is smoother. Cover the dough with cling film at chill overnight, if you cant wait that long, a few hours should suffice.

DAY TWO
Roll your dough out into a large square on a surface dusted with flour; it should be about a centimetre thick. Brush the dough with egg wash and cut into 16 evenly sized pieces. Sprinkle about two thirds of almonds overtop, fold each piece in half and arrange them in a loaf tin. Brush again with egg wash and sprinkle the remaining almonds overtop before leaving in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise.

SAM_2631

Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C or until you can poke a knife into it without any dough sticking to it.

SAM_2632

The food colouring used in the almonds will run through the dough as the sugar coating the almonds melts giving it a beautiful marbled effect.
This is a perfect sweet snack to dunk into your coffee, and having divided the dough into pieces before baking, it is so easy to break into chunks and share with loved ones.

SAM_2637

jingle jingles

For me, the Christmas cooking always begins days in advance, and this year is no expectation.

I recently discovered that Brioche à la Praline (Praline Brioche) is a Lyonnais speciality, not just something that you can get all over France. And to say the least, I have become quite addicted to it. So I have decided that I am going to attempt to make my own for Christmas morning,

I haven’t even begun with the actual dough, but I have successfully created some brilliant red roasted almonds.

IMG_20141223_164510[1]

It is actually really easy. Just take 100 grams of almonds, they should be blanched and can be skinless or skinful depending on what you can find and whatever you feel like using. Mix 40mls of water and 100 grams of sugar in a pot and bring to the boil. Don’t stir the mixture but swirl it every once in a while until the sugar has dissolved. Keep it boiling until it reached 135degrees; if you don’t have a thermometer, just guess when it looks like its kinda hot. Take it off the heat, stir the almonds in and scatter on a baking tray to cool.

IMG_20141222_173013[1]

Mix another 40mls of water and 100 grams of sugar in the pot and add a bit of red or pink food coloring. Repeat the process and leave the almonds of the tray to cook before cutting them up roughly.

IMG_20141222_174337[1]

Stay tuned to see how the hard part; the brioche dough, goes, and everything else on my Christmas menu!

when life gives you lemons

   So, this week I moved. I packed my bags and hopped on a train, how exciting! However, before this excitement could happen I had to leave my house, which involved finding a way of using all the ingredients I had that I couldn’t or didn’t want to take with me. The trouble with this was that I didn’t really have enough of anything to make anything, so I had to do some tweaking.

So this is my adaptation of Vadani Kaval Gheta’s vegan lemon almond cake. I love lemons. And a few years ago I made Nigella’s lemon polenta cake (very good, do try it!) and this cake is quite similar. Although unlike Vadani’s version of the cake, mine was not actually vegan… I had no soy milk, but I had normal milk and the only reason I had looked for a vegan recipe was because I had no eggs and I didn’t want to go and buy any. So I did what I could with what I had, when life gives you lemons, bake a cake!

For this cake you will need:SAM_1409

Between two and four lemons, depending on how lemony you like it
1 cup of milk, from a cow, a soy bean or anything really
1/3 cup of almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/4 cup of flour
a dash of salt
a dash of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of oil, from an olive, a sunflower etc.
a dash of vanilla

First things first, zest all the lemons that you choose to use, squeeze the juice out of them all and add half of it to the milk, set the other half aside. Leave the milk to curdle a little, which I know sounds gross but it helps to thicken the mixture later on.SAM_1411

Mix the almonds, the flour, the baking powder and the salt in a bowl and set aside.

Mix the oil, the sugar, vanilla and all of the lemon zest in another bowl, you can blend it if you want but I didn’t, I doubt it is an essential step. I also added a little bit of cinnamon.SAM_1416

Add a third of the milk slowly and mix it in thoroughly, add another third and another third like so.

Add the dry ingredients and mix together, again thoroughly. Then pour into a cake tin and pop in the oven (which you should have heated to 190°C before the first things first) for 20 minutes.

While that’s baking, mix the remaining lemon juice with  a little bit of sugar to make a nice glaze, you can heat it to thicken it up if you would like but what I did was wait until the cake was done, I took it out of the oven and poured the sugary juice straight over the cake and put it back into the oven for a couple more minutes at a low temperature. This way it seeps through the whole cake to keep it nice and moist.

This cake was a success in my opinion, although it didn’t make a lot and I ate it within the hour. It is best enjoyed hot I think! The sugary almond base to the cake is nicely contrasted to the tart flavour of the lemons which I adore!

A very easy cake, almost as easy to bake as it is to eat!

SAM_1413